In observance of the Week of the Volunteer, Nebraska 4-H is proud to celebrate some of the 2023 Nebraska 4-H Volunteer Award Winners.
The Ray and Betty Vrbka family is receiving the Multi-Generation Family of Volunteers Award. The family, including four generations who volunteer with the Polk County 4-H program, was nominated by Colleen Pallas, Nebraska Extension Assistant in Polk County.
"The Late Ray and Betty Vrbka family has been an integral part of the Polk County 4-H program since I started 30 years ago," wrote Pallas. "But their service to Polk County started way before then!"
Ray was a Polk County 4-H member growing up showing dairy cattle in the 1930s. Betty started leading the Rainbow 4-H Club in 1961 and continued serving as the club leader for over ten years. Into the late 2000s, she also led workshops teaching local youth how to make her famous cinnamon twists, Kolaches and Kuchens.
The Late Susan Ott, their daughter, served as the Young Shelby Pioneers 4-H Club leader for many years, a 4-H Council member for nine years, and the Ag Engineering fair superintendent for over 25 years.
Angie King, another daughter, served on the 4-H Council for ten years and is the current 4-H Snack Shack manager. Angie also volunteers as a 4-H superintendent for Ag Engineering and Horticulture, serving over 25 years.
Ray and Betty’s grandchildren continue to be active and volunteer for the Polk County 4-H program serving as fair superintendents and workshop leaders. Stacy Ott Stewart is now a club leader, fair superintendent, and 4-H Council member. Chase King, Ashley King Robbins, Helen King Bender, Haley King Teten, and Cecelia King have helped lead workshops, sharing their skills and talents learned through their 4-H projects. The King kids continue to serve as fair superintendents and volunteer whenever asked.
Ray and Betty Vrbka now have great-grandchildren in the Polk County 4-H program. McKenna and Alexa Stewart volunteer to help with the 4-H Snack Shack and help with the Clover Kids program.
"Volunteering to serve in the Polk County 4-H program is a deep-rooted part of the Vrbka legacy," wrote Pallas. "The Polk County 4-H program is so thankful for all that this family has done throughout the years for our 4-H program."
Tell us about yourselves.
Angie King: I am a second-generation 4-H member. I have been volunteering as a superintendent for 25 years. My kids Chase, Ashley, Helen, Haley, and Cecelia all were members of 4-H in Polk County, where my parents and I were members. My kids have volunteered or currently volunteering at the fair. We are proud bakers, crafters, photographers, hog farmers, and sewers. I am looking forward to seeing my grandchildren be a part of 4-H in the near future.
Stacy Stewart: My brothers and I were raised as Polk County 4-H members in the Young Shelby Pioneers 4-H Club. Our mom Susan Ott was our leader. We showed sheep, pigs, and lots of other exhibits. I continue to live in Polk County and am currently on the Polk County 4-H Council and am the leader of the Blossomfield 4-H Club that my 3 girls are members of. My girls' favorite projects are Quilts of Valor.
What do you look forward to when you step into your volunteer role?
Angie King: I look forward to helping the kids. 4-H is based on giving others skills to become better people, and we are lucky to share our talents and knowledge to others. Not many people are able to share with others, but 4-H has given us the opportunity to help others while improving our community.
Stacy Stewart: I love seeing the excitement in the youth of our county.
What is your favorite memory as a 4-H volunteer?
Angie King: Many memories consist of working with my sister and kids on check-in day. As the superintendent of Ag Engineering, we are able to help kids check-in projects and then convince them to speak with the judge. Watching scared kids face their fears and talk about their projects is fun for us. Watching a kid be scared and turn into a kid that is proud of their project is always one of my favorites.
Stacy Stewart: My favorite memory is serving alongside my mom during the fair experience.
How have you helped youth find their spark through 4-H?
Angie King: Our family showed hogs at the fair also. We were able to help kids gain skills and techniques to improve their showmanship. We were able to watch the excitement of working together and the community being built while teaching each other to become better people.
Stacey Stewart: I have loved helping youth learn new concepts and making projects to take to the fair.